Christmas is coming….

I’m planning to take a space at Fabrication Shop, Kirkgate, Leeds City Centre in the run up to Christmas where I’ll have wreaths, planters and gifts.  Since it’s a new venture I’m after your help.  If you’ve got a minute tell me what kind of thing you buy at Christmas that’d be great, and feel free to add any other comments!


Hope to see you in the shop!

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Sabotaged photos

I thought I’d take a pic or two of the winter planters I’d done….but then Gloria thought she’d take a swipe at the berries on the gaultheria…..see swiftly moving hen aiming for red berries.

OK so I shooed her off and tried again.  No hens to be seen, great, point the camera at the planter and ……peck!   Straight at the phone..Gloria and her friend this time.   “Is it edible, no, well let’s have another peck anyhow”…… I gave up till they were in bed…but of course then it was dark.  You can’t win sometimes.

Hopefully you can see what we have here though.   A full sized old fashioned zinc pail filled with a 2ft conifer, gaultheria which has lovely red berries flowing over the front, with trailing ivy and pansies or violas  All should do beautifully well on your doorstep all winter.

Put a string of battery operated lights round the little tree and you’ll have a lovely Christmassy welcome on your doorstep later in the winter as well.

And if you want to you can plant everything in the garden when it gets too big for the bucket.  Don’t panic though the thuja (confier) is slow growing so you’re not looking at a hugenormous monster like leylandii!

So here it is in the dark.  Difficult to see I know but I hope you get the idea!

The buckets cost £30 delivered to Leeds postcodes and the Pontefract/Castleford areas.  Please get in touch via the contact form on the site if you’d like one.

I deliver little planters as well but it’s way too dark to take any pictures now.  Will have a go tomorrow.

You’ve seen the autumn wreath before but I’ve had requests to deliver them as well.   Here it is again if you fancy one too:

The base is a wicker frame decorated with seed heads and berries from the garden and the hedgerow.  The frame itself will last for several years so you can decorate it again every season if you want to, and the berries and greenery will last outside for many weeks….the colder it gets the longer they’ll last!  There are some advantages to the cold weather.

Delivered to the same areas as the planter the wreath will cost £28.00.

I have no idea when I’ll be able to take orders on line (I’m sorry)…. technology and I fight daily.  So if you’d like either the planter or the wreath drop me a note – just click on contact in the menu bar and drop me a line.

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Relaxed country look wedding

Generally when I take a brief for a wedding the bride and maybe her mother or chief bridesmaid and I will go over pictures, flower varieties and the colour scheme for the day.  Sometimes they take away magazines or books for inspiration and we visit the venue, and then we get a list together.   Once I know what’s wanted and everything’s confirmed I file away all the details until much much nearer to the wedding.

A couple of weeks before the event   I always get out the list of flowers and send it off to the bride for her to double check.  In the months in between there might be another buttonhole or two, or maybe gift bouquets to add, but that’ll be about it, and then off we go.

This time when I looked at the order I was looking forward to putting together the soft colours to create the bouquet.  The bride was quite clear that she didn’t want anything that was too contrived.  

I really enjoyed choosing flowers that would create the feel and go together well and once I’d chosen the right flowers the handtied bouquet almost put itself together.   The  bridesmaids’ posies incorporated the same flower choices and toned beautifully with the teal dresses.

Inside the venue the fireplaces lent themselves to decoration.   Across the top of the mantlepiece an arrangement was fixed which tied in to the one in the fireplace itself  and on the tables informal vases were put together and the table numbers sat in the vases as well.  Neat little blackboards on sticks which the bride had found and which I loved.   Must ask her where she got them from…..

The couple really did love their flowers – and I loved putting them together.  So guys, many congratulations, and thanks for asking me to put them together….I enjoyed it enormously.

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Time to put the garden to bed

Odd expression that, but I think we get the idea.  Things are looking a bit ropey out there when I stand at the French windows, and they’re going to look much worse unless I sort things out.  It seems harder in the autumn though, it’s much less like fun dismantling the summer garden than getting it up to scratch in the spring, but in fact there’s so much to do and I know it’ll make a difference.

I always know it’s time when I have to clear the tomatoes out of the greenhouse.   There’s still one plant left which has some fruit which might just ripen but the rest are on the compost heap.

Once I’ve done that it’s the ideal opportunity to give the greenhouse a clean inside.  Brush down all the glass and then wash it with a mild disinfectant and clean the staging and shelving.   Try to choose a dry mild day so that any tender plants will be OK outside until everything’s dried out.

Then I can look at what I need to bring into the greenhouse to save for next year.   There are always loads of pelargoniums.   I love them and try to save as many as I can.  They’ll be happy in a dryish compost kept somewhere frost free.  I generally take off the flowers and prune them back to about 4” or so…I could have taken cuttings a little bit earlier but I didn’t…so I’ll try to hang onto the plants.  If it gets really cold in the greenhouse either it’ll need heating or they’ll have to come into the house.

There are plenty of other things I might like to keep.  This year I don’t have any very nice dahlias.  I lost some lovely ones by leaving them in the ground last year.   In a mild winter they’ll be fine outside but we’ve had some very cold ones so it’s safer to lift the tubers, dust off the soil and store them in dry compost till the spring when you can bring them back into growth again.

I will take cuttings of my salvia ‘hot lips’.  I love it and I have taken cuttings before to ensure I keep it year after year.   I’ve lost the parent plant more than once so I know I need to get some cuttings.  I’ll push them into a mixture of compost and sharp sand and cover them in a polythene bag and they’ll be in the greenhouse frost free till the spring.

As for the mixed  border, I tend to stand back and take a view.  There are things that need to be cut back and look a messy tangle of dead leaves, and they’d be better on the compost heap, but there are lots of other things looking great – the sedum and the grasses shine in the sun, lots of the cosmos  and the marigolds are still flowering like mad, as is the nasturtium that’s climbing over the fence.  So they can stay.  On the other hand the cerinthe is black, some of the early perennials like the campanula and yellow loostrife look sad and need cutting back.  But other perennials, which are over for the summer will stay to give some structure for the winter and for the bugs to feed from.  Things like the echinacea  and the eringyum.  So don’t be too ready to clear everything away too soon.

I almost always plant bulbs.  All kinds of bulbs…’s no too late for daffodils and you can plant tulips until December, and as well as them you can put in crocus, alliums, grape hyacinths…there really is such a choice, you only have to go into the garden centre or pick up a catalogue and the choice is vast.  They’re great though because you need to do so little, just dig a hole and drop them in and you’ll have a lovely display next spring.

Finally if I have home made compost that’s ready I like to mulch at this time of year.   Good well-rotted compost is the best and if you can put it down 3-4 inches deep so much the better.   That’s the bit that does feel as though I’m tucking up the flower beds for winter.   Let’s hope they sleep well and come back better than ever next year.

Next job – maybe in November – some autumn pruning!

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Autumn flowers for an autumn wedding

This time of the year is a colourful and vibrant time for flowers, berries and foliage with lots of choice for brides planning an autumn wedding.  It’s also a time when you can bring the harvest theme into your floral arrangements using vegetables like ornamental squashes as well as autumn fruits.

For your bouquet roses are available all year round but now nerines are at their peak.  They surprise me by

their beauty every year, they look so delicate.  Usually they come in shades of pink but there is a rarer red one which goes beautifully with the autumn colours.

This autumn bouquet has berries and autumn foliage with roses  and hydrangeas in faded soft colours showing its possible to have a country look at any time of year.

There’s a real opportunity to introduce some originality into your buttonholes as well now.   As well as flowers and foliage, fruit and berries can come into the design.   Here crab apples, rosehips, acorns and oak leaves make a truly seasonal design.  Or you could choose late summer

 dahlias for fun flamboyant buttonholes.
Right on trend at the moment are floral wreaths…a wreath is not just for Christmas!  And they really lend themselves to weddings at this time of year.   These beautiful circles of flowers and foliage, much of which was gathered from the gardens and hedgerows close to the venue for the reception, were used on all the tables and when the candles were lit the tables looked beautiful.

The venue itself was a tipi, warmed up for the chilly evening with a fire pit.   Inside the wooden framework offered the perfect framework for swags which were hung on the main horizontal support, and more flowers and ivy trails came down from the roof.

 And for the door of your venue….or anywhere else for that matter, a favourite decoration with me, a simple twig wreath decorated with seasonal bits and pieces….everything from horse chestnuts to seed heads.

I’m always happy to talk weddings with brides to be and their families and I make no charge for your consultation when we can talk though your ideas.

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Sign of the times

The other day I mentioned our handpainted signs on Twitter and caused a bit of a flutter.   Clearly I hadn’t said enough about them

They are rather lovely when I posted this picture of a sign for the menus at  The Mustard Pot in Chapel Allerton I immediately had people asking about them.

It began with a few bits of wood and some pots of paint and me needing a sign for something.  That one turned out so well that we had a bash a making a few for sale and they looked really good.   So we went to craft markets with some for sale off the peg as well as offering signs made to order and off we went from there.

The wood is all reclaimed and the signs are individually handpainted.   The lettering is in waterproof enamel and so they can be used outside.

Here’s a whole pile of them ready to go.

Well then it turned out that they were really a great hit with brides to be.  A lasting memento of their wedding day and personal to them.  A nice sign read “Mr & Mrs …….  21st September 2010” which could be hung at the reception as people come in and then taken home and hung in the house.

They make great presents – especially if its hard to find something a little bit different for someone.   Let’s face it we all have people who are hard to buy things for which is probably why we’ve named so many sheds!  What are these chap’s getting up to in there? Can’t tell you how many we’ve done – Dave’s Den, Kev’s Shed, Mike’s Shed, etc, etc…..  But the ladies get a look in too, Bev’s Kitchen, Jenny’s house, Mum’s allotment, and I’m still waiting for one for my garden but maybe I should just nab this one which seems to be to be just right for me.

If you’d like one just get in touch – or fill in my contact form and we can sort it out.   Prices are good I think when I look at others and start at about £12.50  plus postage.   Tell us what you’d like and we’ll be able to give you a price.


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Autumn Colour – Autumn Planters

About this time of year all the summer bedding is slowly shrinking back.  I look at my baskets and planters and although I know they’re getting well past it I resist the urge to empty them onto the compost heap on the off chance that they’ll just carry on a bit longer and that I can keep the autumn at bay.  It’s no good of course, it has to be done, and once I’ve bitten the bullet and cleared away the old exhausted plants so I can get on with some autumn planting actually it all starts to feel a whole lot better.

If you want to set about it yourself there’s plenty out there in the nurseries and creating a pretty or stylish display isn’t difficult.   The violas above are just massed into a small trough and they’ll carry on all winter long…they might come and go a bit if we have snow but they’ll soon spring back up once it clears away and they’ll carry on till the spring.

Variations on a theme here – above are white cyclamen with white heather and ivy in a trough topped with white gravel and below the same combination of plants but using pink cyclamen and pale lilac heather….the flowers on the cyclamen will be knocked down by a frost but they are one of the most stylish looks for this time of year and after flowering can be planted in the borders under hedges to come again another year.

and you can ring the changes by adding ornamental cabbages to your planting.   This is a teraccotta trough, just from the local DIY store with 3 ornamental cabbages and more ivy, with some little violas tucked in between.

If you’re thinking they’ll be a nuisance to look after planters at this time of the year don’t need as much attention or watering as in the summer but do still make sure they are damp because the weather can surprise us all and suddenly we have a hot sunny day.   Deadheading pansies and violas always helps to keep new flowers coming, and if we do get a frost and you want to keep your flowers for longer you can just chuck a piece of newspaper or horticultural fleece over the planters for the night to break the frost.

I love putting planters together – you can get really creative if you look at what’s available and put together some planting scheme based on colour and shape and over the next couple of weeks there’ll be much revamping of my clients troughs and boxes so they’re smartened up for the winter.

I called this last one the chocolate box because all the planting was chocolate coloured – and if you put it together as a gift it’s good to tuck a couple of wrapped chocolates in amongst the foliage – but make sure it’s clear or they may go unnoticed until it’s too late to eat them.

In this box is a red cordyline, heuchera, dark coloured pansies and black grass(ophiopogon  nigrescens) and everything should be readily available now.

All the plants should last the winter very well, the flowers on the pansies will come and go with the weather and the cordyline would appreciate a little shelter, especially from winds but otherwise they should be fine….and next spring you could reuse and revamp the planting because all the plants except the pansies are perennials.

Its a lovely morning this morning so a good day to have a go at a planter and cheer up your doorstep or patio….and if I can help with any questions you can always tweet them to me @MaggyAnne.

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…and the groom wore Converse trainers…..

I love weddings and I love that they come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes…..

This one was a real mix of the conventional and the unconventional…there was a vintage car and a beatiful wedding dress…and there was a bouncy castle, games on the lawn and a whole lot of fun.

My brief for the flowers was informal, country.   Nothing contrived but pretty.

The bride’s bouquet and the bridesmaids’ posies were made up of two types of roses, a soft grey mint, gypsophillia, erengium, poppy seed heads and clematis seed heads, lisianthus and rosemary giving a lovely soft vintage feel and there were a gorgeous scent as I bound them together with ribbon to match the colour scheme.

For the buttonholes the groom had a rather smart calla lilly and his bestman had a great big red dahlia. 

I love delivering the flowers myself to the wedding party.   Its always an occasion and everyone I so excited about the day….I catch the excitement myself and am delighted when I see people’s reaction to the flowers.

The venue was the Mustard Pot which lends itself to this kind of modern country look so well.   There were assorted jugs of mixed flowers on all the tables with lots of colour continuing the soft country theme.   And on the smaller tables I chose filled china cups and saucers.   With the fireplaces full of flowers and flowers on the bar and decorating the bay trees beside the front door the place looked lovely.

Congratulations to another happy couple……

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So many flowers

A few months ago I got a phone call asking me if I’d take part in the flower festival at Ledsham Church….oh yes no problem.  The theme’s What a Wonderful World.  OK, so my brain cranked into gear and yes I thought, a globe of flowers with a little daisy chain dancing round it in mid air to the people of the world connecting with one another.  Shouldn’t be too difficult….. Plenty of time to think about it.

However, I did know what I had to live up to.  I’d been to the flower festival last year and what lovely displays.   The ladies in the village were no amateurs for sure.So the months went by and I imagined this pole sprayed black with my globe perched on it.  So I ordered massive floral foam spheres – one to use and one to practice on and my son made me the the pole.  3 weeks before the event I soaked the globe and tried to sit it on the pole.  Ha!  the thing was so heavy it was like lifting a medicine ball and there was no way it was going to stay upright… so one clever idea down I had to revert to putting it onto a traditional pedestal…but that was OK…not quite the plan, but OK.The day arrived and just over a week ago I landed at the church clutching my pedestal and my flowers.   The place was full of chatter, flowers and buckets and there was lots of activity, and there were some amazing creations in place already.

I loved Singing in the Rain, it did just look as though the flowers were raining down the umbrella, and  the colours in Sunrise…

There really were so many and they were so lovely….but I persevered with my little globe and hoped for the best and every now and again I took a look at some of the others.   There was an afternoon tea called My Mother’s Baking, then there flowers showing the joys of family, this year’s royal wedding, sport and cricket, nature’s bounty, gardening.

There was a patriotic red white and blue one, and then there were the lovely trees, beautiful weeping birch trees, put together to form an archway into thechurch.   A lovely idea for a wedding, such an entrance for the

bride to come through….Anyway I finished my globe.  It wasn’t bad and the colours were good.  See what you think.   As usual I needed to look at it again.   I went home and when I got back on the Sunday I liked it a lot more!

One of my favourites was done for Marie Curie, lovely pink colours in the church doorway.   

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Mrs Postgate’s tomato chutney

Well I suspect that the weather is not going to ripen all my tomatoes….and that might well apply to lots of other people I think, so time to find Margaret Costa’s recipe book. Great book full of fab recipes and so if you can get hold of a copy I can recommend it.  My old one is so well thumbed its just about collapsing so its great that I was bought a fresh copy a couple of years ago.   When I got the new one I discovered that I wasn’t the only fan.   I was in great company, so much so that the blessed Dehlia has written the foreward.

Probably shouldn’t repeat her recipe here but I use it all the time when the season ends and I was asked for it so here goes:

2lbs/900g cooking apples

Half a pound/225g onions

1oz/25g garlic

1lb/450g sultanas

4lbs/1.8kg green tomatoes

2oz/50g bruised root ginger

2oz/55g crushed mustard seeds

half an oz/15g shredded chillies

2lb/900g demerera sugar

4oz/115g salt

l.5 pts/850 ml malt vinegar

Put the peeled and quartered apples through a mincer (or grate or use a foodprocessor) with the onions, garlic and sultanas.  Peel the tomatoes and chop roughly.  Tie the spices in a piece of muslin.

Put everything into a large heavy pan and cook gently for 3-4 hrs till soft, thick and well blended (stir frequently especially towards the end when chutney can burn).  There should be no ‘free liquid’ left but do remember that the mixture will thicken a lot when cool so don’t overcook.  Its ready when a spoon drawn through the mixgture cuts a clean channel with no vinegar left in it.

Remove the spices.  Pot in clean hot jars while still warm, cover with greaseproof paper and a plastic disc or a screw top.

So there you are. Enjoy.  Last year at about this time I made a whole load of stuff….chilli jam, crab apple jelly flavoured with all sorts of things like rosemary and ginger, and pots and pots of damson jam.  Stored them all and put them into Christmas hampers for friends with lots of other home made goodies I made nearer the time.

They went down really well – and probably the best of the lot was the home made advocaat…loved that myself!

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